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How Lili-Anne Brown Found Success As a Director

Photo: Joe Mazza

In the mid-2000s, when the Pill Hill native decided to become a director, she had already spent a decade in theater, working as an actress by night and a talent agent by day. But the career change meant starting over again — namely, at Timber Lake Playhouse in tiny Mount Carroll, Illinois — before becoming artistic director of the well-regarded Bailiwick Chicago in 2012. Brown makes her Goodman Theatre directing debut with Lottery Day, opening March 29, the final installment of Ike Holter’s seven-play Rightlynd cycle.

On finding her calling

“I chose the [high school] theater program at Northwestern’s Cherubs camp because I didn’t want to have homework. But it changed my life. I showed up and everybody was weird like me and I didn’t know that existed. Every year my parents were like, ‘So what are you really going to major in?’ ”

On the sacrifices she’s made

“I had to forgo getting paid. I literally made zero dollars for four years while running Bailiwick so people could see my work.”

On finally making it as a director

“It’s that funny adage of ‘It takes 20 years to become an overnight success.’ I’ve been an actor way more than I’ve been a director. But I could not get put on as a director to save my life. Now a lot of the younger people I work with don’t know I was ever an actor.”

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